Paris Attacks Put French Movie Premieres, Idris Elba's 'Bastille Day' in Question
As high-profile events are canceled and movie attendance declines (Rentrak estimates 'Spectre' lost 20 percent of first-week box office in France due to weekend theater closures), filmgoers in the City of Lights remain defiant.
This story first appeared in the Nov. 27 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
Opening night for the final Hunger Games movie, Mockingjay — Part 2, was expected to be a major event in France, where the franchise has a rabid fan base. But after the terror attacks that rocked the city Nov. 13 and left 130 dead and hundreds injured, neither the sneak preview Nov. 17 nor opening-night screenings the following day sold out. "[The attacks] are in the back of my mind," a patron purchasing three tickets at the Gaumont Opera theater told THR on Nov. 17. The man, who declined to give his name, says he debated walking the streets to the cinema before deciding that seeing the film would be a show of strength. "Call me crazy, I have to see it with friends," he says. "If something were to happen, a bullet is a bullet, but I would rather be together."
Shock, anger and fear were mixed with perseverance and resolve among the French in the days following the attack, and those feelings are being reflected in people returning to entertainment venues, much as they did in the U.S. after the mass shooting at an Aurora, Colo., movie theater in 2012. How much the Paris terror attacks attributed to ISIS — whose victims include 80 fans of the band Eagles of Death Metal shot during a concert at the Bataclan theater, and one person at a bombing at Stade de France during a soccer match — will affect the movie, music and live-events business in France and throughout Europe remains to be seen.
French President Francois Hollande called the attacks an "act of war." France began intense bombing of an ISIS stronghold in Syria on Nov. 16.
Theater chains have reopened after closing for the weekend. U2 and Foo Fighters canceled concerts (U2 — whose frontman, Bono, called the attack "the first direct hit on music" — was set to air its performance on HBO, whose CEO Richard Plepler was in Paris for the event), and Prince scrapped his European tour. Paris premieres of Steven Spielberg's Bridge of Spies, Natalie Portman's Jane Got a Gun and Tom Hardy's Legend also were called off.
Rentrak estimates the latest James Bond film, Spectre, lost about 20 percent of its first-week box office in France because of the closure, and Fox's The Martian also took a hit. But they could pick up steam if French moviegoers return, as they did after the Charlie Hebdo attack in January, which caused box office to dip slightly before recovering. The new terror strikes are expected to cause similar short-term declines but little long-term impact.
Mockingjay — Part 2's French distributor, Metropolitan Filmexport, decided not to move the Nov. 18 release date. "It's a political situation, and we don't want that to influence the release of the movie or to impact the liberty of people," says a rep for the film, indicating industrywide agreement. "This is the decision of everybody, of all the distributors and the exhibitors in France. You have to do what you would do in normal circumstances."
The controversial Made in France — Nicolas Boukhrief's thriller about homegrown jihadis in Paris' suburbs, which already had been bumped from theaters following the Charlie Hebdo attack — was pulled from theaters. StudioCanal says it is considering postponing the scheduled February release of Bastille Day, the Idris Elba action thriller about a bombing in Paris, but that decision had not been made at press time.
Most French entertainment insiders agree the industry remains defiant — if cautious. "We've been asked by a couple of distributors if they should reschedule movies or not," says Rentrak France GM Eric Marti. "But we've told them, 'No, go on; it's more risky for a film to create confusion. Trust the market will recover.' "
Stade de France was the site of one of the attacks after bombs exploded outside the venue during a soccer match.
Pathe went ahead with the Nov. 16 premiere for Thomas Bidegain's Les Cowboys despite the touchy topic of Islamic radicalization. It will be released Nov. 25 as scheduled. BAC Films also refused to move Taj Mahal, Nicolas Saada's film about the similar coordinated terror attacks that hit Mumbai in 2008 and killed 164. It remains set for Dec. 2. "We are certain that if we retreat today, it's surrender tomorrow," says a company rep.
Theater security, which already had been upped to unprecedented levels after 12 Charlie Hebdo employees were killed in a gun attack, will be increased further. For example, a rep for the Grand Rex theater, which hosted the Mockingay premiere Nov. 9, says it has added 24-hour guards.
A spokesperson for EuropaCorp, the prolific film and TV company founded by French filmmaker Luc Besson, says the company will review security procedures for upcoming premieres. "We have our own security company, and we will be emphasizing very strong security, bag searching and the like," says the rep. "Once we set [premiere] dates, we will sit down and discuss the security implementation."
As for U.S. distributors with operations in Europe, few are willing to detail security measures — for obvious reasons. "The cardinal rule about security is that you don't talk about security," says a studio source.
But nearly all are voicing concern for the safety of employees and talent who travel to Paris and the rest of Europe as part of film releases. The next big global tentpole is Disney's Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which opens in France on Dec. 16, two days ahead of its North American launch. Disney declined comment on whether its rollout plan would be altered, but its French premiere already had been planned as a small affair without any major stars (instead, journalists will be flown to London for the red-carpet event). London is more popular than Paris when it comes to big premieres. Still, Paris hosts its fair share. Screenings and junkets can be invaluable in the region because TV commercials for movies aren't allowed in France. "It's a way to advertise your film," says a publicist. "For the immediate future, things will be canceled."
But while France continues to wrestle with the aftermath of the attacks, French filmgoers refuse to give up on their love of le cinema. Reflects one moviegoer THR spoke with on the Champs Elysees: "Film is French. Why would we let them take that away from us?"
Pamela McClintock contributed to this report.
Paris Under Siege: Mourning the Industry’s Victims
Nicholas Alexander, 36
Merchandise manager for bands including Sum 31 and The Black Keys
Thomas Ayad, 34
International product manager at Mercury Records.
Maxime Bouffard, 26
Filmmaker and postproduction specialist.
Guillaume Decherf, 43
A music journalist for the magazine Les Inrocks, Decherf had written about Eagles of Death Metal in its Oct. 28 issue and first revealed the band’s November concert at the Bataclan.
Romain Dunay, 28
Dunay was a professional musician. “You are immortal,” a friend wrote on Twitter, while another mourned the “loss of a kind, dear soul, a musician, teacher, and friend.”
Thomas Duperron, 30
Communications director at Paris’ Maroquinerie theater and music venue.
Gregory Fosse, 28
Music programmer at D17 television station.
Mathieu Hoche, 38
Normandy-born Hoche was a camera technician for the France 24 news channel. A friend tweeted about his love for rock music.
Djamila Houd, 41
Employed at Parisbased fashion house Isabel Marant.
Fanny Minot, 29
Editor for TV news show Le Supplement, which airs on Canal Plus.
Lamia Mondeguer, 30
Communications manager at the Studio Noma talent agency.
Marie Mosser, 24
Mercury Records executive.
Manu Perez, Age Unknown
A music marketing executive who had worked at Universal Music France for more than a decade. Perez was killed at the Bataclan along with his girlfriend, Precilia Correia.
Kheireddine Sahbi, 29
Professional violinist widely known as “Didine.”
Luis Felipe Zschoche Valle, 33
Valle was the singer and guitarist for Paris rock group Captain Americano. The band posted a tribute on its Facebook page showing Valle onstage during a concert in a pilot’s uniform.
Reporting by Alex Ritman